On Wednesday, July 31st, Scaleway's Parisian "La Maison" hosted the ESPCI Paris Summer School. Thus, about thirty high school girls were invited to attend the speeches of two of our female engineering colleagues: Olga Petrova, Machine Learning Engineer and Emmanuelle Demompion, Product Manager Container.
A morning of discovery
The goal was simple: Provide the attending high school students with an overview of possible paths when beginning a university course in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As soon as they arrived, the high school girls had the opportunity to discover the careers of Emmanuelle and Olga, two of our engineers.
While Emmanuelle talks about her many professional experiences and her evolution as an engineer, Olga tells us about her somewhat atypical doctoral career, the reasons for her reorientation in IT out of her research career, and her arrival at Scaleway.
The presentations by our collaborators lasted about two hours. Two hours in which they gave themselves the challenge of informing high school girls about the plurality of possible orientations after a scientific studies course, but also of building their self-confidence. The end of this pleasant morning was marked by a visit through the company headquarters, the opportunity for some of the young girls to take out their phones and immortalize this experience (and also to feed Instagram :) )
Olga Petrova, from a PhD in quantum physics to an artificial intelligence engineer.
Olga's case is a little special. Indeed, after she graduated from high school in Russia, she studied physics at university and did her doctorate in quantum physics in the United States. After an internship in Chile and a post-doctorate in Germany, she came to Paris to work as a researcher at the Ecole Normale Superieure d'Ulm. While there, she got interested in computer science and AI, and chose to join Scaleway.
She explains: "It is normal not to know what you want to do when you're in high school, the world is changing rapidly and the job you will do might not exist yet, when you start your higher education studies."
Throughout her speech, she was reassuring: "Even if Artificial Intelligence will ultimately replace some of today's professions, STEM skills are transferable. It is important not to set yourself any boundaries and not be afraid to change paths if another one seems more interesting."
Olga, why did you choose to talk to high school girls about your career path?
Education is something I feel passionate about because in a world that is very unequal, it is perhaps the best way to "level the playing field" for those who are born into very different circumstances. To be able to take advantage of education opportunities however, one needs to know that they exist. There were multiple times in my life when I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, to talk to the right person, and through that I found out that there was a program I could apply for, or a new subject I could learn. Now I would like to be that right person for others.
What would be your advice for high school girls who want to join an STEM course in the new school year?
I would say, choose your major based primarily on your interests, and not so much on how easy you or your family think it will be for you to find a job afterwards. First, your perception of the future job market is likely to be inaccurate. Some jobs will be automated and disappear, and many new jobs that do not exist today will appear in their place. Second, no matter what you choose to study next, you will continue learning throughout your life. This will allow you to both stay up to date in your career, and change your domain should you want to.
On a more practical level, I would also recommend getting a good basis in maths and learning how to code :)
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